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How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Florida

Florida is the third-largest employer of 911 dispatchers in the country, with a total of 6,060 emergency dispatchers working throughout the state last year. In its most recent employment report, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects that 911 dispatcher jobs will continue to increase steadily at least through the year 2020.

In these major population centers, dispatchers manage hundreds of thousands of calls for service every year:

  • 380 dispatchers working in Jacksonville
  • Over 2,000 dispatchers working in the Miami metropolitan area
  • 710 dispatchers working in the Saint Petersburg-Clearwater-Tampa area
  • 880 dispatchers working in the Orlando area

Learning how to become a 911 dispatcher in Florida means adapting to a key dispatcher job requirement: remaining calm in situations that would normally be cause for panic. Although 911 dispatcher jobs can be very stressful, they can also be equally satisfying, as demonstrated in the recent news story about a dispatcher being hailed as a hero after helping to save a Flagler County three-year-old from drowning by providing CPR instructions to her grandmother over the phone.

911 Dispatcher Training in Florida

Training for 911 dispatcher jobs is provided through mandatory certification courses, on-the-job training, and degree programs through universities and colleges in Florida.

The required certifications are determined by individual emergency service agencies, although there are many similarities among the 911 dispatcher training programs available in Florida.

Certification and prior experience in the following are among the most common skills held by emergency dispatchers in Florida:

  • Printrak Computer Aided Dispatching
  • MicroData Mapping
  • Emergency Medical Dispatch Certification
  • CPR and the abdominal thrust maneuver
  • Labor and delivery protocols
  • 911 Audio Evidence
  • Critical Incident Call Taking
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS) Certification
  • Communications Training Academy
  • Public Safety Telecommunicator Certification

Anyone thinking about a long-term career as a 911 dispatcher should consider studying for a related degree. Besides improving credentials, these areas of study can also smooth the path for upward career mobility. There are over 100 private and public colleges in Florida which offer degree programs for emergency operators, with additional resources available online.

Relevant degrees include:

  • Emergency Management
  • Public Safety
  • Homeland Security
  • Law Enforcement
  • Psychology
  • Communication
  • Fire Science
  • Criminology

911 Dispatchers: Some of Florida’s Finest

Dispatchers across the state are trained through some of the nation’s best instructors and academies. Agencies participating in 911 operator training in Florida include:

  • Commission on Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)
  • National Academy of Emergency Dispatch (NAED)
  • Florida Department of Health
  • Florida Bureau of Emergency Medical Services
  • National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch (NAEMD)
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
  • Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO)

While being trained, dispatchers are reminded of the importance to follow established protocols as these can make the difference between life and death, or a lawsuit. One of the most widely-publicized trials in recent history involved a Sanford 911 call that turned out to be critical evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting trial. The dispatcher was found to have responded appropriately and hence a costly lawsuit was avoided, although because 911 instructions were not followed a tragic event still unfolded.

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